Payam Zamani Headshot

Girls: Society's Primary Educators

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My wife Gouya and I just came back from a trip to Tanzania. We went there to visit a school in a town called Iringa, which is about 500 kilometers (350 miles) west of Dar Es Salam.

The school is called Ruaha Secondary School. The property borders the Little Ruaha River, which connects to the main Ruaha River and passes through Ruaha National Park, famous for having more elephants than any other place in the world. About 10,000 elephants are believed to live there.

My wife and I got involved with the school about 3 years ago. At that time we were looking for a social economic development project that was focused on the education of girls and ideally was located in Africa.

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A social economic development project is much different than a charity. These projects represent grassroots undertakings that have local support, are self-sustained and where outside help will simply allow them to do more and better, but their survival should not be dependent on assistance from outside.

We focused on the education of girls because as Baha'is we believe that women are the first educators. It's only through education and specifically the education of girls that a society can establish a solid foundation that will allow it to enjoy reliable and lasting growth.

The reason we chose Africa was because we felt, given our limited resources, we could have more of an impact. There are clearly countless numbers of worthy projects all over the world, but Africa represents a unique opportunity for many of us in the West to positively impact so many lives.
To start we contacted our good friend, Mahnaz Javid at Mona Foundation. Mahnaz established this foundation in 1999 with the idea of assisting worthy projects all over the world focused on education and specifically the education of girls. Our goals could not have been better aligned.

We preferred going through Mona Foundation because 1) they review many projects all over the world every year and ensure that those best prepared for advancement are identified. 2) Unless specifically earmarked, Mona Foundation does not take any of the contributed funds for administrative purposes. 100% of the contributions earmarked to specific projects are sent directly to them. 3) The Foundation does all the legwork but then gets out of the way and allows the donors to get directly involved in the project.

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Ruaha Secondary School has over 600 students. In a part of the world where education is difficult to come by, this school offers a great opportunity to enthusiastic students to advance their lives. This boarding school offers excellent education, room and food to about 450 girls and 150 boys.

To make this post short I will continue this conversation in a future article next week.

A couple of years ago we went to a U2 concert in Oakland. I remember Bono talking about his One.org Foundation. He said something that has stayed in my mind ever since. I'm paraphrasing: "If we don't get involved and at least attempt to assist these deserving people... then what has been the purpose of our lives."